A number of John Howard’s mates have got seriously rich courtesy of his policies, but the stand-out performer has to be hospital and media entrepreneur Paul Ramsay.

This is how the 2006 BRW Rich List started its citation for Ramsay:

Paul Ramsay was well into his 60s by the time he made his first $100 million. It says a lot about the changes in Australia’s health system over the past decade that in the latest year, with private health care the focus of ever-growing investor attention, his wealth increased by $180 million to $810 million.

Paul Ramsay, Fortescue Metals boss Andrew Forrest and controversial retail hard man Solomon Lew are the three certainties who BRW will declare as new billionaires in 2007.

Ramsay will become Australia’s most government-dependent billionaire because he’s also had a tidy pay day courtesy of the new media ownership laws.

Ramsay owns 40% of Seven Network affiliate Prime TV which has seen its share price rise from $2.50 to $3.90 since the 2004 Federal election delivered John Howard senate control.

But the real upside has come from Ramsay’s 42.5% stake in Australia’s biggest hospital company, Ramsay Healthcare, which has sucked on the teat of massively increased handouts and subsidies to see its share price go from 80c to $11.51 over the past seven years.

Receiving an ACCC green light to buy many of the old Mayne Nickless hospitals and integrating them well has seen Ramsay’s hospital play blossom into a $900 million investment, so it’s no surprise that his companies have donated more than $1 million to the Liberal Party over the past decade.

Indeed, The AFR reported yesterday that the Liberals failed to properly report a $63,000 donation from Ramsay’s interests in 2004-05. It will be interesting to see how prominent the PM’s billionaire golfing buddy is in the 2005-06 figures which will be released on Thursday.

Peter Fray

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